Cellulitis is a common skin infection that occurs when bacteria get under the skin through a wound and invade the soft tissue. Cellulitis can occur almost anywhere on the body although most infections involve the legs. Typically, cellulitis infections clear up completely after seven to 10 days with antibiotic treatment. In rare cases, you may have to be hospitalized if the infection gets worse or you have other medical problems. There are several ways to tell if cellulitis is healing.
Monitor your early symptoms closely once you start your antibiotic treatment. The level of discomfort that you feel is an indication of how well your treatment is working. Provided that you were diagnosed early, you should start to recover within two or three days after you start taking antibiotics. If you had any fever, chills, swelling, nausea and vomiting initially, those symptoms should be greatly improved after a few days on antibiotics.
Pay close attention to the infected area and make sure the appearance of the skin is improving. If the infected area was painful, tender, or hot when you started your antibiotic treatment, after two or three days of treatment, you should have less discomfort. Much of the soreness should have gone away, and the appearance of the infected area should have improved. The red area should be getting smaller and the skin should not feel hard to the touch.
Usually, your doctor will want you to take antibiotics for seven to 10 days. If the antibiotic treatment is successful, you should be completely healed at the end of the 10-day period. Assess the affected area carefully after you finish your antibiotic prescription. Check to see that any previously open wounds are completely healed. Your skin should be pliable, not discolored or swollen. Any scarring should be mild and should fade with time.
If you have had cellulitis, it is important to keep your skin clean by practicing good personal hygiene. Avoid situations where you could cut or injure your skin. Don’t walk barefoot. See your doctor if you get an animal bite, puncture injury, blistered burns, frostbite or crush injury.
Cellulitis will tend to come back if you have a medical condition such as edema (fluid buildup), diabetes, peripheral artery disease, a compromised immune system, or HIV. Recognize the early symptoms of cellulitis, and visit your doctor immediately if those symptoms return.